Friday, June 23, 2006

Team of the Group Stage

Tonight we present The Electric Zarko Top Eleven All-Star Team from the Group Stage. This is mainly a chance to take a look at players who did well without having their team advance, as they are unlikely to wind up in the end of the tournament All-Star team, which will hopefully be a roundtable affair.

The formation being used is a 4-4-2 with wingers and two central mids, one primarily defensive, the other primarily offensive. One objective that I will stick to is making the team as utilitarian as possible, unlike many All-Star teams that would be run off the pitch by a lesser-talented and more balanced side.

Keeper - Shaka Hislop (TRI) Hislop was instrumental in Trinidad & Tobago's first two games, where he stoned Sweden and England for 173+ minutes. Even more amazing was that Hislop wasn't supposed to start, only being selected for the match after Kelvin Jack suffered an injury in the pre-match warmups. Also Considered: Pascal Zuberbuehler (SUI)

Left fullback - Philip Lahm (GER) Instrumental in the first two games for Germany, Philip Lahm has had an excellent cup overall, including what is probably the finest opening goal in the history of the tournament. Adept at getting forward, Lahm has also been a defensive stalwart, combining well with Bastian Schwienstieger in midfield. Also Considered: Neicer Reasco (ECU), Arthur Boka (CIV), Mariano Pernia (ARG)

Right fullback - Hatem Trabelsi (TUN) The major offensive threat for Tunisia even while operating from the back line, it was a common sight to see Trabelsi bombing down the wing towards the opposition area while still getting back to break up attacks. By far the best player for Tunisia. Also Considered: Willy Sagnol (FRA), Luis Miguel (POR)

Center half (2) - John Terry (ENG), Philippe Senderos (SUI) Senderos makes it for his composure in defence and aerial threat on set pieces on offense. Unfortunately he injured his shoulder in the final match of the group stage and may miss out on the rest of the Cup. Terry made yet another goalline clearance against T&T and was generally solid, except for the final game against Sweden, which we're going to glame entirely on Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell. Also Considered: Geovanny Espinoza (ECU), Dennis Lawrence (TRI), Rafael Marquez (MEX), Kolo Toure (CIV), Lucas Neil (AUS)

Defensive mid - Yaya Toure (CIV) "The Next Viera" doesn't seem like so much of an overstatement once you've seen him operate from deep in midfield. A truly dangerous two-way midfielder, Y. Toure even seems to be better than Viera in certain areas, such as shooting at distance. Rumored to be headed to Manchester United post-Cup. Also Considered: Javier Mascherano (ARG), Michael Essien (GHA)

Right Wing - Edison Mendez (ECU) Mendez has been one of the most crucial players for one of the surprise sides in this World Cup. Operating from either flank and sometimes from the middle of the field, he is another true two-way player, complete with a crunching tackle and a stinging shot. Supposedly being sought after by several Spanish teams. Also Considered: Maxi Rodriguez (ARG), Clint Dempsey (USA)

Left Wing - Arjen Robben (NED) The best player for the Dutch and one of the best players in the competition, Robben had the game of the tournament against Serbia and Montenego. Fast, a dangerous dribber and a decent finisher, Robben has been the engine for the Dutch offense so far. Also Considered: Sully Muntari (GHA), Luis Valencia (ECU)

Attacking Mid - Tim Cahill (AUS) Cahill was the main figure in the most important match of the Cup for Australia, the 3-1 victory over Japan where Cahill's appearance from the bench sparked a comeback, including a Cahill volley that hit both posts before crossing the line. A bit of a tough guy, Cahill has made a career out of showing up at the right place at the right time. Also Considered: Xabi Alonso (ESP), Walter Centeno (CSR), Didier Zokora (CIV), Stephen Appiah (GHA), Park Ji Sung (KOR)

Support Forward - Javier Saviola (ARG) "El Conejito" was the best player on the field for the fluid Argentinian team and was as comfortable setting up others as he was finishing himself. Although small, Saviola has used his speed and touch to great effect thus far, to the point where he appears to have relegated Carlos Tevez and Leo Messi to the bench, no small feat. Also Considered: Aruna Dindane (CIV), Luis Garcia (ESP)

Striker - Miroslav Klose (GER) Klose makes a habit of cleaning up on weaker opposition and this Group Stage was no different. An excellent all-around striker, Klose needs to show his ability to finish against top-level opposition before he becomes a world-class forward. Also Considered: Fernando Torres (ESP), Hernan Crespo (ARG), Carlos "Demolition Man" Tenorio (ECU)

[picture at top of article]

Coach: Guus Hiddink (AUS) A further confirmation of his coaching ability, Australia's advancement to the second round was a testament for Hiddink's keen sense of squad management, made most clear in his use of substitutions. Bruce Arena, are you writing this down? Also Considered: Leo Beenhakker (TRI), Kobi Kuhn (SWI)

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